With only so many hours in a business day, like others, I constantly find myself the victim of multi-tasking, working long hours and attempting to do more than I physically can; and keeping in touch with customers via a business mobile phone wherever you are, for many of us, is now an accepted part of life.
But when it comes to driving and the use of mobile phones, the law is clear. So why do so many drivers ignore it?
As the UK government propose to increase penalty points and set tougher punishment for motorists caught using a mobile phone while driving, it appears that many drivers are unaware or ignoring the current law, as it stands.
UK law on the use of mobile phones when driving clearly states: it is illegal to ride a motorcycle or drive using hand-held mobile phone or similar device. The rules are the same if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
AA president Edmund King said drivers have “demanded action” over the “epidemic” of hand-held mobile use behind the wheel, while RAC chief engineer David Bizley described the practice as “a real danger”.
Consideration is being given to raise penalty points for offending drivers caught using their mobile phone from three to four (drivers of larger would receive six points up from three), and increase fines by 50% to £150. But is this enough?
According to the Department for Transport (DfT) statistics for Britain, the use of a mobile phone was a contributing factor in 21 fatal accidents and 84 which were classed as serious.
Most alarming, is a 2014 DfT study showed that 1.6% of drivers in England were observed using a mobile. This was an increase of 1.4% from 2009. At the same time, data showed that prosecutions for the offence were down by almost 50% over the past five years, according to a study by the RAC.
In 2014, 17,414 prosecutions for drivers using a mobile phone were started in magistrates’ courts in England and Wales, almost 50% less (32,571 ) than in 2009.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) director of policy and research, Neil Greig, said: “What we need is an increase in traffic police officers who enforce tougher regulations, in which motorists would fear using a mobile phone at the wheel because they’ll get caught, as opposed to just getting higher fines.”
Using a mobile phone or similar device whilst driving can be as dangerous and fatal as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Using a mobile phone at the wheel is reckless and costs lives – I want to see it become a social taboo like not wearing a seatbelt.”
Witnessing people driving while using a mobile phone is a common occurrence and I believe social pressure is as important as changing the law. I don’t know if statistics are available stating how many offences are caused while driving a work vehicle. But maybe a fine for the company, as well as an increase in points and fine to an offending driver, might be worth considering.